Written by: John McEnhill, Primary Coordinator
I was born in Taiwan and moved to the United States when I was 5 years old. I still remember going to school and EAL class, only knowing the words “yes,” “no,” and “ok.” My family had lived in South Dakota, Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, and finally Southern California, so I know how it feels to be in transition. I attended the University of California at Berkeley in Northern California and stayed in the San Francisco Bay Area until we moved to Beijing in 2013. Although my undergraduate degree is in Mass Communications, after working for some years I returned to school for a Masters in Counselling Psychology. My son was just turning 3 when we moved to Beijing for my husband’s work at United Family Hospital, and while there, I started to gain experience providing counselling for both the expat and local community. Growing up I had retained my ability to speak Mandarin from watching soap operas, but there was still a period of working out the kinks of speaking smoothly while in Beijing. After a year of having a personal tutor, I was finally able to read Chinese enough to use all the necessary apps by the time we moved to Shanghai. After giving birth to our second son in Beijing, we moved to Shanghai in 2016 where I worked at the Community Center Shanghai, ELG, and then Raffles Clinic before coming to YCIS Pudong.
Tell us a little more about what your role as Regency Park Campus Counsellor involves?
Generally speaking, I work with students who may be experiencing challenges due to emotional or relational issues with students, teachers, or family. This may mean meeting with parents and teachers, or observing a student in the classroom, in order to discuss what may be affecting a student’s behaviour or emotional reaction. I could also provide limited individual counselling for students and families or refer them to professional counsellors in Shanghai. I am also the Child Protection Officer for our campus and I work with our team of Child Protection Officers to update material, deliver and track trainings for staff, join regular committee meetings, follow through on child protections cases and documentation.
In the current situation, how do you feel the Counselling team has been able to support the students, and the wider community?
As this Coronavirus situation expanded, one of the first things we all worried about was everyone’s level of possible stress and anxiety – whether for students, parents, or staff members. I am thankful that there was a quick response from professionals in the community to create material on how to understand and respond to COVID-19 for families and how to communicate this situation to children. For the age group of our primary students, mental and emotional health is intertwined and dependent on their parents’ and caretakers’ mental and emotional health. Children usually develop anxiety because an adult in their daily environment is experiencing and displaying anxiety. Therefore, when we first started e-Learning in February, I focused on getting information to parents about how to manage the e-Learning schedule, building in routines (ie. exercise, sleep, family time), managing our children’s behaviour with rewards and consequences. We eventually focused on providing parent online support groups so that pressing concerns and struggles could be shared and discussed. All of these efforts were to help the parent feel supported, feel more connected and less isolated, gain tips and ideas to help with a better sense of control or direction for their own unique challenges. The focus to help reduce parental stress and anxiety also supports reducing our students’ possible anxiety.
How do you think pastoral care, and the role of Counsellors, supports students in their academic and wider life success?
I think by now, most adults would agree that our life experience has plenty of rough and tough parts in relationships, feelings of inadequacy or failure, disappointments, making difficult decisions, and even physical challenges. Whether we can focus and perform to the best of our ability academically or pick ourselves up and keep going even in the face of loss or shame, oftentimes depends on our self-concept, emotional health and ability to cope. This is precisely what pastoral care and school counsellors work to develop. Through various stories and activities, we try to guide how to frame concepts about self and of the world, success and failure, which helps to process and make choices in response to challenges.
We are very thankful that Micah and Noah are able to attend YCIS Pudong. They both enjoy the campus, their teachers and learning activities along with their classmates. We, as parents, are super happy about the dual focus on English and Chinese, including Chinese studies, and the range of learning they have access to from computer to violin. We have been excited for CCAs and access to IIIP on campus and during the school day. We have also been impressed by the work and dedication of all the teachers and staff to coordinate and provide clear communication for all of these activities, holiday events and sports days.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like trying new restaurants, listening to music, singing and playing the guitar by myself – completely amateur so not for other ears J. Getting a massage and meeting for coffee with a friend is always rejuvenating. I also love attending workshops and seminars as I feel excited about active learning in groups and being involved in group discussion. When I can schedule alone time, I sometimes enjoy practicing mindfulness in a walk outdoors focusing on the sights and sounds and my own movements. I’m sure I look funny to a passer by.
As a family, we now love watching superhero movies to save the world vicariously while taking turns on the treadmill or being competitive while playing board games or foosball. We love travelling and nice hotels (who doesn’t?) and when the weather is nice, to go for a picnic in a park with a tent.